Turkey opens trial of almost 500 defendants over failed coup

Europe' politics of fear of Turkey

Nearly 500 people accused of involvement in last year's failed coup in Turkey have gone on trial.

Among those on trial is Akin Ozturk, a former general in the air force who is accused of being a key ringleader in the abortive putsch, which left more than 250 people dead in July 2016. According to the charges, Hulusi Akar, the chief of staff of the military, was taken hostage and brought to the base during the coup attempt.

A total of 486 suspects face charges including murder, violating the constitution and attempting to assassinate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, linked to allegations they conspired to oust the government from an airbase in Akinci.

The main defendant in the case is the 76-year-old US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose followers are blamed by the government for carrying out the failed coup.

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The trial is the largest yet relating to the coup.

The government declared a state of emergency after the coup attempt and embarked on a large-scale crackdown that has alarmed Western allies of Ankara, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member and candidate for European Union membership.

Thus far, Turkish authorities have stripped 342 retired army personnel of their ranks and in all, authorities have sacked or suspended more than 150,000 officials, and arrested some 50,000 people from the military, police, judiciary, academia and other sectors.

Critics say Mr Erdogan is using the purge that followed the coup to stifle political dissent.

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